Virtual Reality: Digital or Fictional?

Neil McDonnell*, Nathan Wildman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Are the objects and events that take place in Virtual Reality genuinely real? Those who answer this question in the affirmative are realists, and those who answer in the negative are irrealists. In this paper we argue against the realist position, as given by Chalmers (2017), and present our own preferred irrealist account of the virtual. We start by disambiguating two potential versions of the realist position-weak and strong-and then go on to argue that neither is plausible. We then introduce a Waltonian variety of ictionalism about the virtual, arguing that this sort of irrealist approach avoids the problems of the realist positions, fits with a unifying theory of representational works, and offers a better account of the phenomenology of engaging in virtual experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-397
Number of pages27
Issue number55
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Virtual reality
  • realism
  • irrealism
  • fictionalism
  • Ken Walton


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